Wimbledon champion Andy Murray had a great resurgence in form in Paris but even he admits there's more work to do if he is to retain his grass court titles. Ralph Ellis looks at his prospects.
"You get the feeling that in Murray’s case it’s that very dour assessment of his own weaknesses that has always helped him hit the heights. It’s what drives the work ethic that has made him arguably the fittest player on tour."
Andy Murray has always had stick over his public image, but I can't think of another top sportsman who is as honest when it comes to interviews.
The world's number one tennis player has never bothered with all the PR guff about what he should or shouldn't say. He tells it like it is, both for good and for bad. Name me another 30-year-old major star from any sport who would openly think out loud about how much longer his body would stand up to the rigours of training every day.
That's what Murray did recently. "I don't know how I am going to feel tomorrow never mind in three years' time," he said.
He's starting his grass court season this week searching to match Fred Perry's three Wimbledon titles on the back of an outstanding run to the semi-finals of Roland Garros.
Yet the candour hasn't ended. When he did his pre-tournament interviews yesterday, he rightly refuted John McEnroe's suggestion that he didn't deserve to be top of the world rankings. Yet he was still picking apart his own faults at the French Open rather than celebrating his success there.
He may have turned round a fairly dismal opening to the year with some gutsy displays on the clay in Paris, but his assessment was only about what could have been better. His serve wasn't as good as he wanted. "I could have moved much better," was his other view.
Murray has two massive titles to defend in the next few weeks, and anything less than winning this week's Aegon Championship and then also defending his Wimbledon crown could well see Stan Wawrinka overtake him at the top of the rankings.
He's [2.58] favourite to extend his record at Queen's Club to a fifth title, but it won't be an easy task. Dangerous grass court player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [19.0] potentially lies in wait at the quarter-final stage with big serving Marin Cilic [14.0] seeded to meet him in the semis. And that's before a potential final against Milos Raonic [6.4] or Wawrinka [13.5].
He starts tomorrow against plastic Brit Aljaz Bedene and is [1.33] to win in straight sets. Bedene, who admitted in Paris that he's thinking of changing his nationality back to Slovenia, arrives with very little form having followed his second round exit in Paris by losing last week to Gilles Muller in the quarter-finals of a grass court event in Holland.
I don't know how the average sports psychologist would view Murray's approach. They preach to players to talk themselves up, boost their own confidence, and make sure they always give positive messages in public.
But perversely you get the feeling that in Murray's case it's that very dour assessment of his own weaknesses that has always helped him hit the heights. It's what drives the work ethic that has made him arguably the fittest player on tour.
If he felt he needed to improve his serve and his movement after Paris, then you can bet your life he's been doing the hard yards on the practice courts to make that happen. Honesty, in Murray's case, is clearly the best policy.